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Home > News > Cumbrian NHS trusts and patients embracing importance of research studies

Cumbrian NHS trusts and patients embracing importance of research studies

Posted on Wednesday 21st October 2015
WCH staff

Research activity in two Cumbrian NHS trusts has been praised as national league table shows an increase in the number of people in the region taking part in studies in the last year.

The national league table, published today (October 21st) by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Clinical Research Network details  the number of studies undertaken by each individual trust and the number of patients they recruited in 2014/15.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust has more than quadrupled the number of patients recruited in the last year to 4,660 across 60 different studies.

Meanwhile, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has increased its number of recruiting studies from 22 to 25 with a total of 1,207 participants taking part in studies.

Both trusts have been supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network: North East and North Cumbria, which has invested in research in Cumbria to deliver studies within the NHS that can have a long-term impact on the quality of care and service provided to patients in the region.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is a budding organisation in terms of clinical research delivery, with the dedicated research and development department being set up in 2009. Thanks to NIHR-distributed funding and support by Clinical Research Networks, clinical research activity has increased dramatically in the last few years.

Dr Leon Jonker, Research and Development Manager at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The decision was taken to systematically increase the number and complexity of studies over time. Whereas at first mainly academic observational studies were undertaken, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust now also delivers commercial studies and a variety of interventional trials for new medicines and medical devices. Over time, more and more clinical specialities have become actively involved in clinical research – approximately 50 different clinicians now lead on studies at a local level.

“The recent CATFISH study was a particular success which helped North Cumbria to be one of the highest recruiting Trusts in the country in 2014-15. In this particular project, over 60% of all pregnant women in North Cumbria consented to take part in an epidemiological study which investigates any effects that supply of fluoridised mains water may have on dental health in infants.”

The ground-breaking CATFISH (Cumbria Assessment of Teeth – a Fluoride Intervention Study for Health) study focusses on how water fluoridation impacts of children’s dental health. It was developed following the resumption of fluoridation in Cumbria after a break of several years.

This enabled researchers to carry out research comparing rates of decay among children starting primary school who are drinking fluoridated water with children of the same age in non-fluoridated parts of Cumbria. The study also looks at babies in the two areas whose mums will have had fluoridated water while pregnant and who will themselves have fluoridated water from birth.

The newborn strand of the study was delivered by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and the school-age strand was led locally by Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

While Cumbria Partnership is a small trust, the national league table shows it is growing steadily and expanding its reach in terms of research. It was also the top recruiting trust in the country for the LonDowns study, which looks at cognition and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in people with Downs Syndrome.

The trust experienced further recognition as it recently exceeded its recruitment targets for the DPiM studies (DNA polymorphisms in mental illness), which examined DNA polymorphisms in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

Barbara Bishop, Research and Development Manager and Lead Research Nurse at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re a relatively small trust but we have achieved so much when taking into consideration the challenges we face in terms of geography as Cumbria is a very large county to recruit from. It’s also relatively research naïve – most clinicians haven’t been involved in research up until the last few years and patients aren’t really aware of research opportunities.

“The league table shows that we are really pushing to increase recruitment year-on-year. We have invested a lot of effort into raising awareness of studies in the county and recently held events in major towns across Cumbria allowing people to ask questions and find out more about how they can get involved.”

Clinical research can have a positive impact on people’s lives in many different ways. Many research participants have inspirational stories to tell about how clinical research can benefit patients, their families or carers.

Nesmah Maguire, is a mother-of-one who lives in Whitehaven, Cumbria, who took part in the CATFISH following the birth of her daughter Norah earlier this year.  

The 29-year-old said: “People can often be cautious about taking part in research studies but not all of them are intrusive and they can be done very easily alongside your day-to-day life. I’d definitely encourage other people to be open to taking part in research in their local area as it can help others in the long run.”

Professor Stephen Robson, Clinical Director, NIHR Clinical Research Network: North East and North Cumbria, said: “Research is vital to help develop and improve patient care, so it’s incredibly important to increase the opportunities for patients to take part in clinical research.

“It’s great that the league table reflects the scale and scope of quality research in our region, and that’s testament to the ongoing collaboration between organisations, hard work of all those involved and the enthusiasm of patients.”

Clinical research is a vital part of the work of the NHS, it is the way that doctors gather evidence about “what works” so that treatments for patients can be improved. In addition, there is research evidence to show that patients do better in hospitals and surgeries that do research – even if they don’t actually take part in a study themselves.

Almost half of the NHS Trusts across the country increased the number of clinical research studies undertaken within their Trust last year, contributing to the drive for better treatments for all NHS patients.

Dr Jonathan Sheffield, Chief Executive Officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said: “It’s great to see a real appetite for research in the North East and North Cumbria. I would like to thank all the patients and carers who have taken part in research, and thereby made a contribution to improving NHS treatments for everyone.

“I would also like to congratulate Trusts in the region that have increased their research activity. We know that research is something that patients really value and these Trusts are creating the opportunities for patients to get involved.”

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Health, said: “Yet again our world class National Institute for Health Research infrastructure has shown that it continues to grow and is providing exciting research projects to benefit our health service. High quality research is vital to bring new treatments to patients as quickly as possible and the Clinical Research Network is proving to be a real success in driving forward this essential work.”

The clinical research league table is available at:


Patients and carers who want to find out more about clinical research can visit: